Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I guess I forgot to say that I was going on an extended vacation. To the land of back-to-back family shindigs.
I missed Food Blahg and Twitter. I hope everyone had a great holiday. Well, I suppose it isn't all over yet, with New Year's coming up and all. And yes, even more family shindigs await.
At least one more thing to wrap up here before year's end, though. Even though it's old news. Oh well.
You may remember that I went a little squash crazy this fall. I managed to cook with a handful of different squashes -- kabocha, buttercup, and pumpkin -- but my favorite was definitely butternut.
The first I bought was a beaut -- practically perfect as far as butternuts go. I got it early on in squash season so I had prime pickin.' And then I bought a couple more later on. I used up the less attractive ones first because I really adored that first one I got. My mother, who also discovered how much she liked butternut squash after she'd had a bit of mine, asked if she could have it. I refused.
And then later, this happened:
My beautiful butternut took a dive to the kitchen floor and cracked (see the bottom left?). I teared up a bit. I suppose this is the consequence of being a butternut hog. And since I could not just leave it out like that, I reluctantly cut it into two manageable pieces to be able to store it in the fridge. Bye bye, butternut.
Oh, and thank you for the tasty dishes.
Roasted butternut with shallot and sage, tossed with goat cheese and penne:
Butternut gratin with goat cheese and hazelnuts:
I also made a butternut bisque to help soothe my cough (no photo).
Yes, I realize I made pretty much the exact same dish with three slight alterations. You can't blame a girl from wanting to use up her leftover ingredients from Thanksgiving!
I still want/need to try the spaghetti, acorn, and delicata varieties. Perhaps it'll be a New Year's resolution. Along with updating this blog more often.
See you next year.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Here's a summary of what went down:
- Felt a little handicapped by two new recipes for the mashed potatoes and stuffing/dressing (the previous recipes I could do with my eyes closed).
- Was completely confounded by a new turkey-trussing method, which, ironically, was Alton Brown's. Every year, I forget how to truss turkey (I guess I need to make whole poultry dishes more often), so I look up the same instructional video on Food Network -- except I couldn't find it this year. Aren't you supposed to be making this easier for me, Alton, instead of delaying my turkey from getting into the oven by half an hour?
- Took out the turkey too early because I am apparently unable to properly use a thermometer. I just could not get in sync with my turkey this year! My stuffing and sweet potatoes were taking up space in the oven by the time I realized that my bird was a few degrees away from saying "GOBBLE," so I had my sister make a frantic run to my aunt's house where Thanksgiving is hosted (luckily only 3 minutes away) with the turkey in the passenger seat, while my car was beeping incessantly warning her to buckle in her 20-pound turkey child.
- Made a mess in the oven by forgetting to place my springform pan, containing my post-Thanksgiving pumpkin cheesecake, on top of a sheet pan. I felt really bad about it because my mother had just made the oven all spic and span when she cleaned up the turkey splatters. After that, I cleaned it up myself of course, but not without forgetting to use kitchen gloves. So now I have a scaly monster for a right hand.
- Finally: contracted a really, really annoying cold/cough.
BUT. Despite all the mishaps, Thanksgiving was a success. After we cooked it all the way through at my aunt's, the turkey was still super tender and tasty. The two new recipes -- caramelized shallot and sage mashed potatoes and hazelnut, sage, and mushroom stuffing -- were well worth the extra effort. I added a little oomph to my turkey stock this year, resulting in a superbly rich gravy.
I just hope next year's Thanksgiving runs a tad more smoothly.
Now, please join me as I look back on reaping the rewards of a rough weekend!
Counter-clockwise from top left: my mom's salad with peanut dressing -- a staple at any family party (oh, forgot to mention that we always have American + Indonesian food at Thanksgiving), BBQ chicken, mac 'n cheese, corn spoonbread, baked sweet potatoes and apples, turkey turkey, Honeybaked ham, creamed spinach and corn (a dish I'm retiring to the dismay of a beloved cousin), fried bakmi, Oma's bakso soup, krupuk, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberries. I only made seven of these dishes.
The stuffing was among my favorites this year. I used a Pullman loaf from Poul's Bakery in Orange instead of a box of dried bread cubes. I'm definitely not opposed to shortcuts, but using real bread is WORTH it. The creminis are great, and the hazelnuts make it so festive!
Aaaand this is why I love having a pastry chef for a cousin.
YES that is a mini crème brulée next to the mini fruit tart, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and brownie!
A pretty good first attempt at making cheesecake, if I do say so myself. The crust is made from gingersnaps, pecans and candied ginger; the topping is sour cream and marshmallow. All of it is creamy, dreamy and wonderful.
Thanksgiving is still my favorite holiday.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Buttercup squash is similar to kabocha, although the texture is more starchy and the flavor is less rich, in my opinion.
I just baked it, scooped out the flesh, and topped it with cinnamon, brown sugar, and walnuts. And then I baked it again.
It was not my favorite. It would probably be better suited in a stew. At least its funky appearance provided some amusement.
As for the pumpkin.... I cheated and used canned. (I am reserving my actual sugar pumpkins for something more exciting.)
But this chocolate pumpkin tart still counts, right?
The fresh whipped cream and pecans are essential. This tart recipe was super easy, but I should have lined the bottom with parchment. The bottom of the pan pops up from the sides, but the melted chocolate + caramelized sugar cemented parts of the tart onto the pan. I hate fighting with my food.
But we kissed and made up.
Next: My butternut debacle. (P.S. Take the poll if you haven't already!)
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Since I'm running out of time, I need a little help in deciding what to do with the remainder of my butternut squash. Please take my poll to the left!
And wish me luck in my Thanksgiving prep.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Pretzel Crisps (savory):
This buffalo wing-flavored snack might as well be laced with crack. I can't get enough of them. They're as addictive and light as potato chips, but are crunchier, taste way better and are better for you. Look how gloriously thin they are:
I bought the buffalo wing and garlic flavors at my local Sprouts, to justify my passing the sample tray about a dozen times to snatch up more and more of these. They really should not leave those things unattended.
Trader Joe's also has its own version -- and they're everything-flavored. Though, they carry them kind of sporadically, so don't get mad at me if you can't find them.
Isabella's Cookies (sweet):
These were a random impulse buy while waiting to purchase my lunch at Ivy's Cafe in Tustin (simple, healthy, yet somehow super delicious sandwiches/salads). I like these cookies because they (1) taste homemade (which they are) and (2) come in unusual flavors. The above is "The Paddy" -- mint chips and semisweet chocolate chips. And below:
"The Muffy" -- a tribute to a muffin top (undoubtedly adding to my "muffin top"), this cookie is studded with dried blueberries, white chocolate chips, and milk-chocolate covered blueberries. I've also tried "Chocolate Haze," which has whole hazelnuts and dark chocolate chunks. I'm still trying to find "The Shortcake," an homage to strawberry shortcake.
The Pure Bar (healthy):
Although it's not common, I'd imagine, I suppose it's possible to have a healthy craving. The Pure Bar is all-vegan raw food -- organic, nothing cooked, no preservatives, and all that jazz. Now, I am usually not into these super healthy meal-replacement bar dealios. In fact, I find many of them quite awful, especially when I have to think for longer than 15 seconds about how the vegan peanut butter and chocolate bar I'm chewing tastes even remotely like peanut butter and chocolate.
Maybe that's why The Pure Bar is not only tolerable, it's astonishingly delicious: It doesn't really try to emulate any flavor. It just is.
Example: The wild blueberry bar, my favorite, just tastes like dried blueberries, complemented with little bits of walnuts -- enough to satisfy, but rare enough to invoke a fond appreciation for each walnut encounter as I slowly make my way through. Same thing goes for the apple cinnamon.
While I tend to stay away from the ones promoting themselves as chocolate, the chocolate chip trail mix bars offer an interesting alternative: cacao nibs. It's not as indulgent as a good, rich bar of dark chocolate, but it's definitely still "the real thing," and a suitable substitute if you're trying to be healthy.
But like many good things, The Pure Bar does not come cheap, and so far I've only been able to find it at Whole Foods.
As my snack preferences change as often as my cravings do, only time will tell what my tastebuds have yet to discover in the tasty world of munchies!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
First up: Kabocha squash.
Kabocha is a Japanese pumpkin and its flavor and texture, according to Wikipedia, is comparable to chestnuts. I'd have to say I agree.
It's commonly used in tempura. Mmm. That's what I love about squash: its versatility in creating both sweet and savory dishes. The following recipe is an example of the latter execution.
Miso-glazed kabocha squash:
(I'm annoyed because my camera battery died before I could upload my own photos, and I don't have my memory card reader with me. But blah di blah di blah, you probably don't care.)
This recipe from Sunset Magazine was a good first one to try, although when I make it again, I'll probably cut slightly thicker slices, to be able to savor more squash per bite. Also, I over-glazed them; saltiness hampered the natural sweetness of the squash. Let the taste of nature's bounty shine through! Power to the squash! .. And other hippie phrases.
More tips for my future self!
- Be patient when baking; semi-crunchy squash is not so yum.
- Don't leave out the sesame oil; it's a nice finishing touch.
- It's pretty tasty on a bed of steamed rice.
- The rind, while edible, gets annoying after a while.
- Kabocha is fun to say. Kaaboochaaa. Heh.
Yay, 1 down, several more to go (picture a butternut squash, a buttercup squash, and sugar pumpkins all lined up in a row on my counter).
Friday, October 31, 2008
It's three in the marnin'. But goshdarnit, I promised I'd do this, didn't I?
Needless to say, I have been one busy mofo. Three separate time-consuming activities, all important to me, have swallowed me up whole. At least I won't have to worry about one of these anymore after the next four days.
It is one sad, crazy world when a food-loving gal is unable to contribute to her own food blog. It makes me long for the yum-filled days of summer, when I could afford the money, time, and patience to buy fancy pastries, make stews, and layer popsicles, respectively.
So as a gift to myself, here's a look back at a few snapshots of summer, when life was perhaps a smidge more carefree, and a whole lot tastier..
Some Crust Bakery in Claremont... Oh, how I miss the raspberry- and lemon-mousse cupcakes and chocolate chip pumpkin cookies.
And the key lime cupcake.
Just.. the key lime cupcake. That's all. Try it and this jibjabba might make sense.
Summer was also the time of whimsical movie-plus-some-food-completely-unrelated-to-the-movie-and-vice-versa nights. Okay, I only held one of those. But who could forget "Japanese Curry and James McAvoy Movie Night"?! James McAvoy's Scottish accent and Vermont Curry-brand curry, with "a touch of apple and honey," will forever be ingrained together in my mind, that's for sure.
Finally -- the art of popsicle making!
Step 1: Buy a ridiculously unnecessary popsicle recipe book.
Step 2: Buy a ridiculously unnecessary -- but freakin' adorable -- Sailboat popsicle mold set.
Step 3: Create beautiful and delicious frozen treats in an attempt to justify the silly splurges committed in steps 1 and 2.
.... After I've finished my nostalgic sobbing about summer's end, I'll do my best to focus on what fall brings:
Monday, October 27, 2008
I know I've been seriously neglecting Food Blahg. :( If time permits, look forward to a full-fledged post later this week..
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Ok. Sorry for being the worst food blogger ever in that I can't remember what the official names of these two items are. But both are delicious. On the left is a moist walnut spice cake; on the right, rich custard between layers of phyllo and then drenched in honey. I wonder what the latter would taste like right after it's constructed -- with the phyllo still crunchy... one can only wonder. Still, it was terrific.
YES -- Loukoumathes! Or loukoumades. Whatever the hell you call them, they are out of this world. These crispy donut-like balls come fresh out of the fryer and are dumped into a vat of honey, where they soak and float around for a few minutes like yummy little buoys in a swimming pool of sticky sweetness. A quick dusting of cinnamon sugar make them sparkle and glisten, enticing you to eat them right this very second. And as you bite through the perfectly crisp outside, the honey oozes out and almost burns your tongue, but you don't really care because it was all worth it...
I say again: I heart Greek Street.
(Click for other Street Fair goodies I tried this year.)
Thursday, August 28, 2008
For some awesome Street Fair food tips, hit up the Register's Fast Food Maven, Nancy Luna, who covered Street Fair extensively last year.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Their apricot cheese danish alone is worth revisiting Berkeley for another post. A real, whole apricot, not some measly jam, is baked within. The cream cheese, more savory than sweet, is melty against the soft fruit on the inside, but actually has somewhat of a crust as it peeks out from under the flaky criss-crosses.
Compared to the satisfying danish, the sunflower sesame cookie (on the right) is a mere afterthought. And much too healthy for me -- I later regretted not choosing the banana cheese danish instead.
(And yes, we did miss our flight going home. I guess it was difficult to leave!)
* * *
2708 Russell Street
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
As you can see, I was attempting, unsuccessfully, to open it at the fold. (To give myself a little credit, Pocky boxes were originally designed to open at the top, not the side like this photo shows.)
After I overcame this temporary confusion, the actual Pocky sticks, thankfully, escaped unscathed.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Let's wrap up the Berkeley foodventures and be done with it already!
Highlights from the rest of our trip, in reverse order of favoritism:
4. Chowdahs in the chill at Fisherman's Wharf.
Before our hike up the insanely steep and crooked Lombard Street in San Francisco, we needed proper sustenance. Fisherman's Wharf is a very touristy -- therefore, expensive -- spot, so we had to be a little creative:
First, we got an adorable sourdough turtle from Boudin. After promptly devouring its legs, tail and head, we headed over to the cluster of fresh seafood offerings where we purchased a cup each of crab chowder and clam chowder, each costing only a few dollars. Because it was biting cold and we didn't really feel like eating next to the pigeon poo, we headed back over to Boudin's heated outdoor patio to eat. (Wasn't that such a great idea?!)
The crab chowder was my favorite. It was the corn in it that sold me.
3. What is a Gypsy's? It is a delicious.
Spaghetti carbonara at Gypsy's Trattoria Italiano, located at none other than Asian Ghetto.
Man. I wish there were an Italian place like this at home. Gypsy's has a huge selection of pizzas, calzones and pastas (cooked perfectly al dente), which are prepared quickly, come in hefty portions, and cost you no more than a matinee movie. My carbonara was creamy and eggy, generously adorned with crispy pancetta.
As for the garlic bread? Instead of the usual garlic buttered-toast, Gypsy's dishes come with a slab of bread and a generous smear of real roasted garlic so soft and sweet, you'd think it was butter. But better. Better butter. Of garlic.
2. Hot/cold confusion, and the creamiest gelato ever.
The sun didn't peek out once during our trip, so it's a good thing I love eating ice cream in cold weather. Almare served up some of the most decadent gelato I've ever tasted (texture is always key). Pistachio was rich and nutty, kiwi-strawberry was true to its fruity flavors but not overly sweet, and both were perfectly creamy and thick.
Ici, on the other hand, is on a whole 'nother plane of ice cream existence. The flavors here, which change daily, are always unconventional: Earl Grey and cookies, Santa Rosa plum, gingersnap-honey, cardamom-rose... so many chances to try something you've never tasted before.
On this particular day, my cousin and I both opted for peach-habanero. Its searing heat was immediately soothed by sweet tanginess, which quickly turned back into spiciness. While sitting on a bench outdoors, we vocalized this strange, but wonderful sensation:
"I'm cold. But it's hot! But it's cold... I'm so confused!"
1. Diamond dogs.
From the hole-in-the-wall (literally) Top Dog, my sister got a chicken-lemon dog (left), I got the linguica, my cousin got the original Top Dog. Unfortunately, the one I got was my least favorite -- probably because I unwittingly slathered it with a very spicy horseradish mustard (I didn't know what "Russian mustard" was!). At least now I know that spicy, smoky sausage does NOT go with horseradish. The O.G. "New York-style" hot dog was classic and wonderful, and the chicken-lemon was surprisingly juicy and tender. I really, really wanted to go back to try the smoked chicken apple dog, but didn't get a chance to! Boo. I want to try each of the dozen or so flavors.
Phew! This post was long, but it included only highlights; I took way more food photos:
For my next visit, I've vowed to make it down to Berkeley's famed "Gourmet Ghetto" -- home to the likes of widely-praised Cheeseboard and Chez Panisse.
Let's go! Now?
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
We spent the second half of our Saturday in Golden Gate Park where we attended San Francisco's Zine Fest, a conference for independent and underground publishing. I didn't know what 'zines' were before that day (short for 'fanzine,' Wikipedia defines them as a "small circulation, non-commercial publication of original text and images"), so it was a super neat experience in learning about something completely new and observing such diverse talent in art, storytelling, wit, humor and weirdness. The last part I say with admiration.
And wouldn't you know it, there were even some food-inspired items:
These deliciously adorable note cards are by Motormouthpress, which produces stationery rather than zines (it's sorta related, I guess). Click through their site to see more food-themed cuteness.
I should have gotten twenty more of these. Although, then I'd just have a huge stack of note cards that would sit on my desk forever, as they are almost too pretty to part with. I suppose I could send them to myself.
I WANT TO EAT THESE CARDS.
(And if you're wondering what's on the other side of the card, it has the chocolate petite cake in a gift box, with a speech bubble that says, "I miss you, too, Raspberry." AWW.)
Monday, July 21, 2008
Metro Kathmandu in/near the Haight and Ashbury district was my first venture into Nepalese cuisine. And first impressions were delicious.
A mango lassi was a sweet, thick thirst-quencher, which whet my appetite and made me hungrier. Luckily, the food came out quickly.
A chicken and mango spinach salad with tamarind dressing and shaved fennel. The chicken was a little on the tough side, but the perfectly ripe, juicy mango more than made up for it.
Chicken curry with basmati rice was a lighter, less rich version of Indian-style curry. Which isn't bad at all -- just pleasantly different. This time the chicken was fall-apart-in-your-mouth tender. SUPER MONEY TENDER. Hahaha silly Guy Fieri.
Finally, I was most excited to try these Everest momos -- stuffed with ground buffalo meat, curry, onion, garlic and ginger, served alongside a tomato chutney. Since this is the first time I had buffalo, I can't really say yet what its distinct qualities are. Perhaps.. a juicier version of beef? 'Yummy' could be another distinctive quality..?
I would love to try more of Nepalese cuisine. I wonder if there are any restaurants in Orange County.
Sounds like a food quest is in order.
* * *
311 Divisadero Street
San Francisco 94117
Friday, July 18, 2008
So just a quick rundown of today's food consumption:
A late lunch at Berkeley's "Asian Ghetto" on Durant Ave. consisted of lamb gyros from Meesha's Berkeley Gyros and a lychee-avocado smoothie from Sweetheart Café. Both were yummy and filled an empty stomach caused by preceding hours of luggage-towing.
Don't ask me why we got Greek/Mediterranean grub at an Asian Ghetto. There happens to be pretty good Italian there, too.
After an impromptu tour of UC Berkeley's campus, we returned to my sister's apartment where I promptly collapsed on the floor and snoozed for an hour and a half. I awoke to: "I'm hungry -- let's go eat some sushi!" and groggily (and happily) obliged.
We got three monstrous rolls at Joshu-ya Sushi. They were too gigantic for this blog, in fact. I'll show you only one: The Lucky Danny Roll. (I wonder who this Danny is. And why is he so lucky?)
Shrimp tempura, crab meat, asparagus tempura, topped with fresh salmon, avocado and tobiko. Quite heavy because of all the fried goodness, but pretty damn tasty. And the fish was very succulent.
To sum it up: Traveling, food, nap, more food, sleep. It was a pretty good day.
Tomorrow: San Francisco!
* * *
Meesha's Berkeley Gyros
2519 Durant Ave.
2523 Durant Ave.
2441 Dwight Way
Thursday, July 17, 2008
I've heard that Berkeley has some of the best food and most talented chefs in the country. Ooh! I'll try to update while I'm there, but I might be too busy having fun or stuffing my face.
On a separate, but related, note: I am really wanting and trying to update this blog more often. It's not that I have a lack of material (SO many things to ramble on about) -- it's a lack of time! Boo, bill-paying job!
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
When your pastry chef cousin Irene asks you if you want to attend a free Valrhona chocolate demo, all you can do is say 'hells yes.'
I mean, come on: it's free, at Surfas (absolute heaven for chefs, gourmands, and cooking enthusiasts), and it features the be-all and end-all of chocolate -- mother effin' Valrhona. You don't have to ask me twice.
Corporate chef for Valrhona, Derek Poirer, with his endless capacity for patience and chocolate knowledge, demonstrated recipes and humored silly questions from participants for more than two hours.
Oh yeah, and he also fed us chocolatey goodness:
Above, a chocolate financier, studded with streusel and "Valrhona's solution to the chocolate chip," per the description of chef Poirer's assistant. And that Tootsie Roll-looking thing on top? A luscious log of chocolate custard.
Valrhona's chocolate mousse topped with macerated strawberries. Because 'macerated' is a way cooler word than 'chopped.'
Chocolate soufflé, which was actually a baked version of the chocolate mousse.
Finally, chocolat chaud made with a special chocolate spiced with curry, cumin and other spices. Oh, and topped with fresh vanilla foam, of course.
The recipes are supposed to be available someday soon on the Surfas website -- if and when they do post them I will include the link here. For now, please join me in drooling at the photos and fantasizing about swimming in a giant tub of chocolate mousse.
* * *
8824 National Blvd.
Culver City 90232
Monday, July 7, 2008
I had a much better, less redder experience with red velvet this time around (we only put half a teaspoon of red food gel into these babies).
My cousin preferred red sugar crystals for decorating:
"Aww, yours are cute. They're rustic and homey!"
"Hey, Irene always uses 'rustic' whenever she messes up on something."
"Rustic" or not, they were mighty tasty. And not frightening in the slightest. REJOICE!
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
The Tustin Street Fair and Chili Cookoff is long gone (June 1), but for the sake of reminding myself what I should try next year, I am documenting it anyway.
The Tustin News did a full report of the chili cook-off winners as named by the International Chili Society, but here are the favorites as named by the Supercool Spicy Sexy Chili Society (my sister, boyfriend, and myself):
Out of the dozen or so we tried, my boyfriend's top pick was Duffy's Fantail Chili (front), which placed fourth in the aforementioned judging. It was just all-around good, flavorful chili -- one of my favorites, too.
The chili in the mini bread boule, for which I can't recall the name, was fricken' adorable but much too salty.
My sister's favorite was the Spice Girls Chili. I forgot why. I think because of the tomatoey flavor.
Mine was the Fire Ant Chili. It was unique, smoky and had a really nice kick. Y'know, it had "layers of flavor," and all that jazz.
I also really liked the Paradise Chili, which I forgot to photograph. Mostly, I think I liked it because it had corn in it. Everything is better with corn. You should know that by now.
And to cool off, Repicci's mango-flavored Italian ice was the perfect treat on this scorching summer day:
Next year I must remember to try:
Blue Ribbon Chili (sold out before we even arrived)
Ring of Fire Chili
Oh, and we overheard people talking about steak chili... but could not find the vendor ourselves.
* * *
Tustin Street Fair & Chili Cookoff
El Camino Real & Main Street